A young singer got the “best birthday present ever” – a new set of donor lungs after an agonising three year wait.
Charles Michael Duke, 23, was born with cystic fibrosis and was put on the transplant list after his lungs collapsed on stage.
He had a dedicated mobile phone constantly by his side and waited three years for the call from doctors to tell him to come in for the op.
Charles is now enjoying his first “miracle” breaths with the new lungs after a nine hour op and the actor and singer can’t wait to be belt out songs again.
Charles from Bournemouth, said: “When I woke up I felt high as a kite. I was so relieved to be awake and to know it had gone well – but the morphine helped too!
“My first breath was not as I expected. It was painful, I had four chest drains in, my ribs were bruised and my body was recovering.
“But eventually after a couple of days I started to take breaths that made me realise what I’ve got, and how different the lungs are. They are awesome. It keeps hitting me.
“I think when I do something I used to do before the transplant – like singing – that’s when I will really notice the difference.
“I think I’m going to find that I’ll sing a song won’t need to take so many breaths as I used to.
“I feel so positive. Every day I am able to achieve something else – like walking or using stairs. It’s amazing.
“All these ‘firsts’ after the transplant is like having a new life and exploring the world for the first time again.”
Charles’ health started to deteriorate when he was 17 and he was forced to take time off school for hospital appointments and treatment.
His lung collapsed when he was 19 while he was on stage performing in a Christmas show.
Charles initially thought he just felt “woosey” due to his diabetes – but found out his lung had collapsed when he went to hospital for antibiotics the next day.
His lung collapsed again when a chest drain was removed, and he went on the transplant list a few months later in April 2015.
“That for me was the turning point and when I thought I needed a transplant, as I wanted to continue performing and doing what I loved,” he said.
He spent a lot of time in hospital – particuarly after a bad bout of flu in December 2017 which left him needing to cart around an oxygen tank he called Oli.
Charles got the call to say he cold have the lung transplant last month – around his 23rd birthday – and had the nine hour op at Harefield Hospital, Uxbridge, the same day.
He said: “I can finally get on with things now. For three years I have sat waiting and dreaming. I don’t feel prepared at all for this.
“I want to return to the stage and get into my singing again.
“I can finally go on holiday. When I was waiting for the transplant I always had to be reasonably close to the hospital and let them know if I was more than two hours away.
“I’d love to go to America. I’d love to go to a Broadway show – Hamilton would be the dream
“I waited three years because there aren’t enough people on the donor list.
“I was fortunate to be able to wait that long, and fortunate to get the call, but many people die waiting.
“There are loads of people out there still waiting so it’s so important people sign up. This has been a huge miracle for me.
“I hope my story gives other people who waiting for a transplant hope.